Why the 2015 Carolina Panthers are the NFL team with the strongest-ever ties to hip hop.
Why have old white women, from Hillary Clinton to this 95-year-old grandma, been seen hitting dabs in the past few months? Despite what the Quality Control artists behind tracks like “Dab Fever,” “Look At My Dab,” and “Dab Daddy” would have you believe, it’s not because these ladies have suddenly become interested in trap music. Cam Newton, quarterback for the NFC champion Carolina Panthers and probable 2015 MVP, has done more for the dance than any rapper. The former Heisman Trophy winner hits the move almost every time his team scores, and due to the football’s almost universal popularity (as well as the Panthers’ insane offense), it’s made him the poster child for the biggest dance that’s emerged from Southern rap in the past six months. While the dab is the most obvious piece of hip hop culture that the Panthers have beamed into living rooms across the country this year, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. This Panthers squad has more ties to rap music than any NFL team in history.
When everyone’s fighting but you just wanna party https://t.co/hKmaetVsSi
— Best Dabs (@BestOfDabs) January 25, 2016
During the regular season, Newton’s dabs were basically the only tie to rap culture the team had, but since hitting the playoffs, the rest of the Panthers have let loose. Their first postseason game came on January 17th, and by coincidence, led to some absolutely hilarious homages to Future. The opponents just happened to be the Seattle Seahawks, led by the man currently dating (but not sleeping with) the rapper’s ex, Ciara, and the Cats did everything they could to curse Russell Wilson. Before kickoff, the home team’s stadium was blasting “Monster”:
— Petty Ginn Jr (@iCantGetWright) January 17, 2016
When safety Tre Boston sacked Wilson, he hit the dance move that DJ Esco immortalized in the “Where Ya At” video:
All of this trolling, combined with the fact that Future dropped his Purple Reign tape just four hours before kickoff, made for quite an assault on Wilson and the Hawks, who lost in much more humiliating fashion due to all of the clowning. Future’s continued to play an important role in the teams on- and off-field exploits, as they made a video of themselves lip-syncing his and Drake‘s “Big Rings” just before their next game, and then went as far to invite Nayvadius himself to the sidelines (along with fellow Atlantan Jeezy).
Elsewhere, other rappers have been involved in the team’s rise. B.o.B, who was born in North Carolina, performed at halftime of that very same Seahawks-Panthers game (fortunately, he hadn’t released his Neil deGrasse Tyson diss track yet). Before last Sunday’s NFC Championship matchup, another NC native, Petey Pablo, released a Panthers anthem called “Carolina Colors.”
That’s just one of many tracks the successful team has inspired, and the others range from Baby Jesus’ infectious “Dab City” to superfan Ked Woodley’s (unintentionally?) hilarious track “Dominate The Foes”:
The NFL has a pretty rich history of team-specific anthems, from Wiz Khalifa‘s Steeler’s ode “Black & Yellow” to Lil Wayne‘s infinitely better Packers-themed “Green & Yellow” to the first documented intersection between hip hop and football, the 1985 Chicago Bears’ “Super Bowl Shuffle.” Despite that, the sport’s never had quite the connection to rap that basketball does. Rappers have owned NBA teams, many NBA players have attempted rap careers (admittedly, the Atlanta Falcons’ William Moore also has passable bars), and ballers’ names get dropped much more frequently than footballers’. Basketball is still far less popular than football in the US, with the most-viewed NBA Finals game of the last five years bringing in just under 20 million viewers. Compare that with the least-viewed Super Bowl of that period (around 106 million viewers), and it’s clear which sport reaches more households.
The Carolina Panthers are bringing Southern rap culture to the masses, whether those viewers recognize it or not. People who are totally uninterested in (and in some cases wholeheartedly against) hip hop can avoid rappers and basketball if they really want to, but the NFL still seems to be an inescapable facet of life in the US. Hopefully, the joy that Future’s music and Migos‘ dance moves bring to the best team in the country shows the masses that trap music can be just as uplifting and motivating as any “jock jams” of years past. If you love hip hop, and aren’t loyal to the Broncos, you should definitely be rooting for Cam and the Panthers on Super Bowl Sunday. They’re doing great things for rap culture.